Q: Why do I have to register my kit (with the iPhone app or online)?

A: Registering your kit will allow you to see your results online (app or website) and contribute important data to scientists such as where you found your samples.

Q: What information should I submit to the iPhone app or website?

A: Please submit a photo, have a guess at what you might’ve found (e.g. beetle) and tell us where you found it. There are an optional ‘notes’ fields for you to tell us anything else about your sample, e.g. ‘found under rock.’ All fields are optional but the more information you can provide, the more data is available for future scientific studies.

Q: Why is it important to record the location where I found my specimen?

A: Say you collect a handful of beetles from the beach. You may be fairly confident they are all the same species, they all look the same and there are thousands of them lying around. However, when you barcode your beetles, you find out that instead of one species, you actually have two! And one of them is a new species that no one has discovered before! You can bet lots of scientists will be very interested in your discovery. They will want to go back to that same beach to collect more samples to study. As you can imagine, if you did not include your exact collection location no one else will know where to go and find it again.

Q: How do I record the location of my specimen?

A: If you are using the LifeScanner app on an iPhone or iPad, the location will be gathered from your device automatically. On the website, you can view a map and click on your location. Otherwise, you can find the coordinates by entering the street address and zip code into a number of available free websites, e.g.,, etc. If you forget to do this, please enter the street address on a form that staff can provide you with when you return your kit to the library.

Q: Does the quality of the image I upload to my record matter?

A: Yes, it really does! The images associated with your record should be in focus and as close-up as possible, so that all the diagnostic features of your specimen are visible. The images will help you, and other experts, confirm the identifications of your samples over the internet, even when the actual specimen is not available to them. You can add more than one image per record, so feel free to try all the different orientations – dorsal, ventral, lateral, etc – in case you can’t get all the features you need from just one photo.

Q: What am I allowed to collect?

A: Currently, all LifeScanner kits are designed for animal collection - this means that you cannot collect plants or other non-animal tissues.

Q: What do I do if the specimen is too large for the vial?

A: Do not overfill the test tube. The specimen has to be covered by the liquid in the vial so that it will be preserved for DNA extraction. It is okay to break off a part of the specimen to put in the vial. A piece the size of an eyelash is ok - there is enough DNA in that small amount to work.

Q: Is the liquid inside the vial dangerous?

A: The liquid inside the vial is non-toxic and has been developed with scientific collection by children in mind. Each kit contains the safety data sheet number for the fluid. Nevertheless, try to avoid any chance of possible skin irritation by avoiding touching or getting the liquid in your eyes if possible.